Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Suicide prevention. It is safe to say that the Army and Joint Base Lewis-McChord have put these issues at the forefront of every safety briefing, website, Facebook page, and even on banners tied to the airfield fence line at Gray Army Airfield. Some Servicemembers are open about receiving help as well as looking out for their brothers in arms by doing buddy checks or notifying their chain of command if anything seems suspicious. Others, however, are more hesitant, citing stigma or fear of repercussions from their chain of command.
For those wanting anonymous help, there are various websites, chat rooms and phone calls you can make from the privacy of your own home. But sometimes you want something more than a blank computer screen or ‘just' a voice on the phone. That's where Tacoma-based group PTSD Anonymous (PTSDA) comes in.
Started in the summer of 2008, the group focuses on veteran-led support group meetings, which are non-clinical and completely anonymous.
"Mutual trust and confidentiality are key," said Stephen Kubiszewski, a veterans advocate and counselor both with the group and in the state of Washington. "The 12 steps work as time goes on, and members start coming together as a team helping a buddy cope."
The steps to which he refers are those that the group puts in place to help a combat veteran's journey. They can range from addressing that one has trauma to helping others going through the same hardship. The number of participants in the group has dwindled, however, even though deployments are still happening and combat veterans are still coming home with PTSD and TBI.
"You know more about the real impacts of TBI and or PTSD," Kubiszewski said to those on the fence about joining the support group. "Options are available. Check them out and make your choice before something serious happens. (You should) network, research options and (place) your trust in others who also walked this road."
There are rules set in place for the PTSDA group for the benefit of all participants, such as not interrupting while someone is sharing and giving supportive attention. Meeting rules also mandate that there will not be any sense of accountability taken, and no war stories can be shared. No notes are written down.
For more information about PTSDA visit www.ptsdanonymous.org, call (253) 279-2624 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This group is solely for combat veterans; PTSDA is also in need of volunteers. Training is not needed, as the groups are solely discussion-based and not approached from a medical or clinical standpoint.